I am personally not a fun of the so-called motivational speakers in town today, the reason being that I have generally perceived most of them to be ‘book long’ speakers without any practical and technical experience. 

Key among them are those who often tell us that, it is possible to establish and sustain a business without capital. I don’t usually subscribe to such ideations when they appear so juicy without any substance.

However, recently, I spent some time listening to one Professor Pikay Richardson’s submissions on how corporate entities can sustain and grow their businesses in the 21st Century and I very much associate myself with his views. 

Professor Richardson is a celebrated lecturer and still, a visiting lecturer at the Manchester Business School in the United Kingdom, travelled over 35 countries teaching, imparting knowledge to corporate and other business leaders across the globe. 

This article takes a lot of inspirations from his in-depth work on the above topic. In Ghana, he is also a visiting lecturer at the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA), China Europe Business School (CEIBS) among many others.

In the late 20th century, business success was simply defined in terms of profit and growth. Ironically, in the 21st century, that definition is outdated and can constrain potential profit and growth, and even worse, endanger a company’s ability to stay afloat in business. 

Unboundary – an entity which assists organizations bridge the gap between the challenges of faster adaptation and the possibilities of greater purpose – believes that a society in which a business operates expects more from the business today; that firms with true loyalty and support are those who pursue purpose as well as profit. Unboundary says this new world demands a new business standard for success. 

They call it significance. By that Unboundary means the significance of the business to the society. In other words, companies must consider creating and maintaining a meaningful relationship with everyone affected by the company’s operations, not just shareholders who have stakes in these businesses.

The million-dollar question then is, at what point does a business become stagnant? Umair Haque, who blogs on the Harvard Business Magazine wrote something interesting that: “Most companies have only ever conceived of themselves as being in business.” 

This may sound self-evident, it’s very important. “They’ve never really thought of themselves as citizens. They have citizenship programs, and corporate social responsibility and philanthropy but … most companies never deliver on what counts — making people, communities and societies tangibly better off. This is where businesses get stuck.

More importantly, the point has been made by several researchers that companies that have remained relevant over the last century or few decades have achieved such success on the back of great LEADERSHIP. Managing companies effectively today depends on the quality and maturity of its effective leadership. 

This involves integrating people into a common venture, setting clear goals, objectives and values. Business leaders must recognize that success in today’s business does not relate only to the bottom line being the revenue the company will make. There must further be a recognition that one important factor that drives a business is the customer. 

As an example, consider a company such as International Business Solution (IBM); its market capitalization saw a drop from over $100bn in 1984 to about $49bn in somewhere in 1992. Today, institutions such as Kodak Films are nowhere to be found. Nokia has revolutionized to meet current trends. The list is endless. 

The changes we are seeing in the business environment are as a result of deregulations, globalization, regional free trade agreements, technology, industry collision, new entrants and customer sophistication. 

This means that monopolistic firms may not be enjoying the same monopoly in the market today. The source of change is driving most business to sit up and rethink their models and strategies to remain fit for purpose.

To succeed in today`s competitive business environment, organizations must, therefore, focus on recognizing that the new challenge is how to build speed, flexibility and self-renewal. Businesses must ensure to achieve optimal productivity through its people and staff. They remain the most important asset to drive business growth. If a conscious effort is not made to meet the need for a competent and motivated workforce, it cannot grow and flourish.

What will separate successful companies and unsuccessful companies in the 21st century depends on many factors. The figure below shows some pointers. 

Sustaining business growth in the 21st century

Figure 1: Ways businesses remain relevant and competitive

To conclude, the business dynamics have changed globally. A company’s success is not determined by its big size, first-mover advantage or technological superiority. A successful company is driven by good Leadership!

 Credit: Prof. Pikay Richardson-Manchester Business School, Miriam Amoako

Disclaimer: The views expressed are personal and doesn’t represent the institution the writer work for or the publishing firm.

About the writer

Carl Odame-Gyenti is a third-year PhD (Financial Management) candidate, a Finance and Telecom enthusiast, managing local and global Investors, Intermediaries, Non-Bank Financial and Financial Institution relationships with an international bank in Ghana. He has embarked on several international assignments in London, Singapore, Dubai, Kenya, Nigeria and Southern African markets. He has a passion for youth and community development.